The town of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a beautiful place - kind of a funny place - but a really beautiful place. It was our second stop on the first day of our road trip around southern France over our Semana Santa break from school, and it made the cut not only because it was suggested by the guidebook I was using, but also because the pictures that came up on Google images were pretty impressive (as usual, better than ours, so feel free to make a habit of looking at things on both places!!).
We found free parking on the edge of town and walked about ten minutes up the hill into the center but I'm using the terms "edge of town," "center," and even "town" pretty loosely here. The entire population is, according to a 2007 estimate, 217 people, so as our pictures show, it's a pretty itty bitty place.
D - Shannon forgot to mention how it was that we found "free" parking. We actually parked in an official pay lot, but if you were parked there for thirty minutes or less it was free. As the price for parking was an outrageous four euros per day, we decided to do what any reasonable, prudent, and thrifty couple would do and park our car at one lot, explore (ahem...power walk) as much of the town as possible in twenty five minutes, and then book it back to the car and move our car to another lot (despite the small size of the town there are at least five or so official parking lots). In retrospect, it may have been a bit more relaxing to just pay the four euros, but this was the beginning of our trip and we wanted to ensure we wouldn't run out of money later on.
We walked around and saw it all within a few minutes, and then took the steps to the top of the cliff overlooking the Lot River (which is worthwhile for views of the village and valley). We didn't go in the town's church, St. Stephen's Cathedral, but it is a main focal point and stood out even as we were driving away.
D - Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a perfect example of the beauty of uniformity that I referenced in our post about Toulouse (see more here). All the buildings look the same in the best way possible. It's an unbelievably gorgeous, fairy tale-esque, provincial French village perched on the side of a cliff. Perched on the side of a cliff! Does it get any better? Our time there was wonderful, despite our constant hustling from place to place, and the fact that I was really feeling frustration about the inadequacy of our camera to capture the magic feeling of the town. Oh well. I'm learning that it's a fool's errand to try to capture the feeling of a place inside a photo anyway. You'll just have to go and visit yourself!
At the beginning of the post, I called Saint-Cirq-Lapopie "kind of a funny place" and that's because it's tiny - population 217! - but annually it gets around 400,000 tourists. There's an association in France called Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, or The Most Beautiful Villages of France Association. I love that this is a thing, because it helped me narrow down which places to visit when my list got overwhelming, but also because it encapsulates the French and their love of beauty. They love it (it being beauty), they care about it, they work for it - and it shows in their country and in their towns. It has made France, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Okay, I'm coming back from my rabbit trail. Not only is Saint-Cirq-Lapopie on the list of most beautiful villages in France, but it was also voted France's favorite village in 2012, which obviously garnered it a good deal of attention and visitors. And, if you read our Cahors post (check it out here!) you may remember that it has Danny's vote, too - he didn't know about all of the "France's favorite village" stuff while we were there, but as we left he declared it his favorite and stuck to it throughout the trip.